Love without Bread

Earning Our Earthly Bread.

We are told repeatedly that Christians are in the world, but not of the world. Does that mean that Christians cannot have a piece of the pie, which the world has to offer? Do they have to remain poor and scrounge of the crumbs that fall from the table of the rich? What did Jesus have in mind, when he told his followers that they would be rewarded a hundred times for leaving their homes, families and relatives for his sake (Matthew 19:29)? 

During the great depression, a minister got fed up with his farming congregation. He told them plainly that he intended to eat a little higher off the hog. Whenever the farmers butchered they would bring the parson the pig legs. Even in this world the laborer deserves his wages and those that minister in the Word should be compensated fairly. Ministers should not be greedy; neither, should they have to worry where their next meal comes from. Any Christian, who does not provide for his family is worse than a heathen. All of life is based on the principle of sowing and reaping. He who does not sow will not reap. Nothing yields nothing or zero plus zero remains zero. The reason some do become wealthy is because some one had put in the seed and it grew into a fortune.

Man is the only being who has to earn his keep. He has been given the proper tools to carve out an existence for himself. He can decide whether the project is feasible or not. Take the parable of the Sower, Jesus gave it a spiritual application, but we also can use it in a profitable business venture. I did spent my first twenty-one years on the land and I learned that the soil had to be prepared, fertilized, seeded, weeded, watered, and then given time for the seed to grow before it could ripen and be harvested. I cut thistles, collected piles of rocks and broke up soil as hard as a road. We made it useful and productive before we put the seed in. Even the good soil required tender care, that is if it was to yield plentiful. Otherwise, we harvested nothing, even very modestly from the unattended good soil. A certain amount of sweat and backbreaking efforts were demanded. The bread, which we earned by the sweat of our brows, was much more appreciated. There is nothing but honor for those that earn their bread with their hands. 

I also learned that one does not seed at random. For instance, wheat required richer soil than oats or barley. Potatoes and beats grew best in softer or lighter soil, nevertheless well fertilized. Rye and wheat preferred heavier soil. Farming was not all-manual labor. There was a certain amount of brainwork involved. Even grass did not grow everywhere. Of course, the weather and the power to grow comes from the Lord, but the planning and preparing God has entrusted to man. My parents had built one of the loveliest gardens. It was even pictured in a provincial, not just local paper. But we were not able to keep it trimmed and weeded and as a result the garden lost its beauty. There were no more comments like, “The Lord has given you a beautiful garden.” Our problem was that the garden did not feed us. It did not raise any bread. We noticed how the flowers would diminish in number and in size every year. Father had built the garden for mother. She became ill and could no longer keep it beautiful. I could not help mother with her garden, because the land had to come first to be kept productive.

My folks and I lived under three regimes, which limited people to what they could and could not do. Especially after World War II, when we had lost everything and were strangers among strangers, we still found ways to secure bread. We did it without any help from any government or welfare agency. We were the first refugee family in town. One day the Lutheran Pastor called and told us that a Care Package had come for refugees, but he had forgotten that we were the only family who qualified at the time, so he shared it with his people, that had no need for such assistance. He was sort of apologizing for his mismanagement. How could he not remember us? Weeks earlier he had buried my brother, who was killed in that town by a truck. My point is that we made it without any handouts. I worked at many odd jobs, and we managed to survive. That is why I do not sympathize with people, who will not take a job that might compromise their assistance from the government. The sad part is that the government infringes on the rights of property owners. People that have worked hard to acquire a home are taxed heavily to support loafers and politicians. Such injustice cannot sustain a country or a system. It will crumble and end in anarchy or chaos. 

I am not saying that there should be no help for the disabled or for the victims of unforeseen tragedies, but that should not be a permanent arrangement. I, too, am seventy five percent disabled. I could have lived off the welfare system. Instead, I chose to go into a work, which I could handle as a handicapped person. I had to have two years of hospitalization before I was physically fit, and nine years of training before I qualified for the work, which I had decided to do. I have a nephew that was disabled at the age of twenty. He sits in a wheel chair. He could have become a useful member in society, but he elected to remain a helpless quadriplegic. Financially, he does no longer need help, but mentally he is dying. I have known people, who were in worse shape than he is or I was, and they refused to live as mental cripples. There is no disease worse than being mentally disabled. And there is nothing sadder than to have a healthy body that lives with a depraved mind.

The mind, which suffers from a self-degradation, will not succeed. It is like the man, who buried his one talent and kept guarding it for fear of loosing it. This man has many, way too many followers. Particularly, Christians are to be content in whatsoever state they are. That was what the Apostle Paul believed, but should we? He said it at a time, when the return of Christ was expected during their lifetime. But when the return of Christ did not come about, he too had to change and tell people to put in an honest day’s work. Of course, there are areas in the world, where people are coerced into poverty. But to think that the Bible encourages poverty or contentment is false. It is against making materialism as an end in itself, but not a means to an end. It is not money that is evil, but the love for it. Jesus encouraged his followers to make friends with those, who can manage the means of Mammon, because they will need their help during financial troubles. Jesus was against turning Mammon into a god, or making him the only reason, why man exists. Misery loves company, but not that kind. 

God never intended man to remain a pauper; especially, to think that one honors God by being one. The lazy virgins that did not fill their lamps were not rewarded. It is the foolish man that builds his house on the sand, and thinks that it will withstand the forces of nature. Unfortunately, we live with people, who feel for foolish victims, who keep on living on the borders of disaster. We are all told, that if we persist in constructing our lives with certain materials, that we shall suffer or even die. We do not have to wait for judgment day to see our house or life cave in. The Lord will provide, but He will not put it into our mouths.  If we continue to manage badly, then we will also eat poorly. The “Parable of the Weeds” teaches that when we sleep instead of weeding, we can no longer harvest ourselves (Matthew 13:24-30). One year, weed seed mixed in with grain seed and father burned both. He could not feed it to the animals, if we did, we could not use the manure. He explained that it was too tedious a job to separate the two seeds. Weed seeds are small and stick to larger seeds. The easiest way to kill weeds is to cut it before it ripens, rather than pull it and uproot the grain.

As a boy, I recall that we harvested once a year and managed to store food for an entire year. We had no storage places in town or money when we ran out of food that we could buy some. For instance, we stored potatoes on the ground by covering them with straw and dirt. When it got colder, we applied another cover of straw and dirt. The dirt was taken from next to the potato pile and thus creating a ditch for the water to drain and keep the crop dry. On top of the pile, we left a small hole for the potatoes to breathe. My point is, that we managed well and had potatoes until the new ones could be harvested. We found ways of storing most of our supplies. There was no system, to which we could go to, and get help, when our supplies ran out. This was in the Ukraine and in Poland. Now Germany had an industrial monitory system that did the storing. The USA has a welfare system based on the taxes of property owners. It also has an unemployment tax based on income or salaries. When we got married, my wife applied for unemployment benefits. She was denied assistance because she had a husband, who was decent, the wrong race and the wrong color, and she gave up her job to marry me and then looked for another closer to home. Some time later, I too applied for a job. I had a doctorate in my field and over thirty students in just one class, but the job went to a black man with three students and no higher education. In spite of the unfair politics, I earned my bread as a handicapped person in another job. Jesus did not endorse the one talent man regardless of his race or creed (Matthew 25:24-30).